New data from the U.S. Census Bureau released in May reveals the growth of the Greater Houston area is slowing down, which experts have said could jeopardize employment in industries like health care that rely on population growth.
In 2017, Houston grew by 0.36 percent, which is down from about 1 percent growth in 2016 and 1.94 percent growth in 2015, according to the Census Bureau.
While Houstonians wait for the oil and gas industry—the region’s largest economic driver—to fully recover from a 2014 downturn, health care job growth will depend on population growth, Jenny Philip, a research director for the Greater Houston Partnership, said at a Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce luncheon in March.
According to GHP estimates, about 1 in every 9 Houston workers—nearly 340,000 people—are employed in health care. Philip said Houston added 50,000 health care jobs over the last five years, which helped offset the oil and gas downturn.
“Unfortunately, we aren’t able to maintain that level of growth, and we’re actually experiencing one of the first net declines in employment at the end of 2017,” she said.
The GHP estimates the metropolitan area will add 8,000 health care jobs throughout 2018. This number is down from an estimated 9,800 added in 2017 and an average of 9,660 per year since 2012.
Ambulatory care centers drove much of the industry’s growth in recent years, but health care providers overestimated the growth, so now Houston is in a period of “right-sizing,” Philip said. This decline is not only happening in Houston, but across the nation, she said.
Cy-Fair has seen an influx of urgent care centers over the past five years, and the growth continues with additional facilities opening this spring. A new MedExpress opened in March on FM 529, and an AFC Urgent Care opened on Barker Cypress Road in May.
Olivia Serdy, public relations coordinator with MedExpress, said the center began hiring early in the process to ensure there was time to hire quality medical professionals to fully staff the clinic.
“When selecting new center locations, we look for locations that are in close proximity to where people live and work,” she said. “We want to be located in the heart of communities so that it is easy to people to get care when they need it.”
Meanwhile, Cypress-Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital closed two urgent care locations in May—one at 14044 Spring Cypress Road, Cypress, and another at 9138 West Road, Houston—with plans to re-evaluate how it provides urgent care moving forward. Hospital CEO Naman Mahajan said the hospital remains committed to offering ambulatory care.
“We will be growing and expanding our footprint in the urgent care realm in the Cypress area, but we want to be very strategic that we are in locations that offer close proximity to folks that will need urgent care like families with young children,” he said.
Additional reporting by Shawn Arrajj